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4 Decades After Eminent Domain Loss, Gowanus Concrete Plant Ready to Leave

By Leslie Albrecht | February 15, 2017 8:43am
 A 2011 shot of Ferrara Brothers cement mixers in Gowanus, with the now-gone Kentile Floors sign in the background. Ferrara is preparing to move to Sunset Park after more than 40 years in Gowanus.
A 2011 shot of Ferrara Brothers cement mixers in Gowanus, with the now-gone Kentile Floors sign in the background. Ferrara is preparing to move to Sunset Park after more than 40 years in Gowanus.
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GOWANUS — The dusty concrete plant on the edge of the Gowanus Canal that pumped out building material for the 9/11 Memorial and other iconic structures is preparing to leave after more than 40 years in the neighborhood — inching the property one step closer to becoming a long-planned residential development.

Ferrara Brothers is expected to break ground this year on a new concrete manufacturing facility in Sunset Park, according to the NYC Economic Development Corporation, which recently filed for building permits for the facility.

EDC selected Ferrara Brothers to build the $15 million facility after issuing a request for proposals to revitalize the dormant Sunset Park property at 740 Third Ave., which once belonged to Moore-McCormack shipping company.

Ferrara's founders first decided to buy its Hoyt Street property and open a Gowanus plant in 1973 after realizing they needed to be near water to "effectively compete" in the industry, according to Ferrara's RFP application. Barges travel up the Gowanus Canal to deliver raw materials such as cement, stone and sand to Ferrara's plant.

The next year, the company suffered "a severe blow" when the city used eminent domain to seize Ferrara's Hoyt Street land, the RFP stated. To this day the company’s founders feel the property was "wrongfully appropriated," they wrote in the RFP. Ferrara has rented the Hoyt Street property from the city ever since.

Ferrara's new Sunset Park plant, with water access, will replace the company's 435 Hoyt St. facility in Gowanus. Ferrara won't leave Gowanus until the new Sunset Park facility is up and running, and construction on the new plant is expected to take at least a year, the company said in its RFP proposal.

Ferrara's departure from the Hoyt Street facility will help advance the long-planned Gowanus Green residential and mixed use development, which is slated to be built on Ferrara's current Hoyt Street site.

Ferrara's new Sunset Park plant will be "state-of-the art and environmentally friendly," according to Ferrara's RFP proposal. The new facility is expected to provide 50 manufacturing jobs.

"This project will retain quality jobs in the city and activate underutilized property in Sunset Park," said EDC spokesman Ryan Birchmeier in an email. "We are working with Ferrara Brothers to move forward as quickly as possible. … We are excited to share more details on the project in the coming months."

Ferrara Brothers did not respond to calls for comment.

The new plant is expected to "reduce truck trips and impact," according to an EDC presentation, though the agency did not respond to questions about how exactly the facility would do that.

In addition to the concrete plant, Ferrara's new Sunset Park facility will have a compressed natural gas fueling station that will supply 15 CNG-fueled cement mixers, which are gradually replacing the company's diesel-powered mixers, according to Ferrara's RFP proposal. The fueling station will be open to the general public as well.

Ferrara Brothers was founded in 1969 by Joseph A. Ferrara, his father, and four brothers, who launched the company with five "very old" cement mixers, according to Ferrara's RFP.

Since then it's gone on to supply concrete for the Second Avenue subway, the 9/11 Memorial and NYC Water Tunnel No. 3. Ferrara now has several plants in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn.

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